Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Day

Our weekend, despite the storms, was pretty good.  Saturday night and Monday both involved storms and tornado warnings and general moments of weather-related anxiety.  We were monitoring the weather for long periods of time.  Over the years Amy and I have dealt with some minor flooding issues, roof damage, and power outages.  Our stuff has been relatively minor, and it's still a headache, so I'm very sympathetic to people who face serious loss as a result of water, wind, and weather-related damage.  It was pretty sad to hear about the homes that were destroyed in Wimberley and the lives that were lost.
We've had some flood control work done at our house, and it seemed to really help out this time (BIG knock on wood).  We had some really intense rains for a while, and this time nothing came into the house.  Which was nice.

I got to see Mad Max: Fury Road.
Fury Road was good.  It was pretty much everything that you might expect from a really good Mad Max movie.  It was intense, hyperkinetic, violent, funny, surprisingly thoughtful, and extremely imaginative.  The movie stood out as feeling extremely innovative and original, garnering an astonishing 98% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes after two weeks at the box office, and although I really enjoyed the movie, I'm somewhat confused by the adoration poured upon it by critics and audiences.  I feel like Fury Road was a great movie, but it was just another very good addition to a longstanding film franchise that's been around for decades.  I really enjoyed the movie, but it didn't depart much, if at all, from any of the material that had been explored in the original Mad Max, The  Road Warrior, or Beyond Thunderdome.  The popularity of Fury Road, I think, feels like a reaction to (or against?) the uninspired, bland, computer generated fare that audiences have been receiving for the past decade or so.  George Miller reminds everyone why it's worth taking some creative risks while making a film, making a movie which ended up pleasing everyone when, on paper, it probably looked like it might not please anyone.  If an unknown or younger director had approached studio heads with a pitch for a movie about insane, punk rock-ish, post apocalyptic warriors chasing each other and fighting  their way across a barren landscape for two hours, the studio heads would have balked.  In the era of big budget blockbusters that must guarantee a return on investment, even George Miller could have conceivably ended up producing this movie on a shoestring budget for the Syfy Channel.
This movie stands out from contemporary movies because it implements the risky but rewarding style of the other Mad Max movies before it.  Nothing is a sure thing in this movie.  Audiences might have rejected the characters, the story, the cinematic style, or even the premise of the whole thing (we're not exactly short on post-apocalyptic fiction these days).  But the movie, especially when held up against recent fare, is unorthodox.  Which makes it unpredictable.  Which makes it compelling.  The process which funds quirky, visionary, inspired movies surely must produce as more duds and flops as it does successes, but when a visionary film is successful it stands alone as a triumphant work of art.  The Mad Max films accomplish that sort of success, and it's the sort of success that the great Hollywood blockbuster-generating machine can't seem to achieve.
Many a Hollywood producer has run his profit algorithms and decided that's it's a sure bet to imitate, recreate, and simulate previously successful works.  Fury Road was successful because it wasn't a copy of a work that had previously been successful.  It was a continuation of a series of films that had been previously successful, and it felt every bit as vital and original as The Road WarriorFury Road didn't need to "update" Miller's previous work by way of direction, cinematography, or story.  It didn't insist that we know how to do things better these days.  Instead, Fury Road reminded us that the older films told their stories exactly how they needed to be told, and it insisted that, by and large, the old-school world of practical effects, accelerated film speeds, and live action stunt work is still the best, most convincing way to tell certain stories.  The characters weren't modified to make them more palatable to modern audiences.  The whole movie was chaos and violence and madness and determination.
The movie didn't reach out to find an audience.  It made the audience come to the movie.  The process began in 1979 with Mad Max, but 2015's Fury Road demonstrates what can happen when a persistent, dedicated group of fans fan the flames of cult film love.

Anyway, it was a good movie.  I enjoyed it.  But I wasn't surprised by it.  Maybe I should have been.  People keep expanding on classic old film franchises and then ruining them.  But I'm an optimist, and I liked the trailer.

We also went out to my parents' house this weekend.  They fed us grilled steak and salmon (Dad's gotten pretty darn good at grilling salmon), and we hung out and just talked.  The sun came out while we were over there, so we sat outside and took a short walk.  It was very pleasant.  Very relaxing.

Sunday Mom and dad came over to babysit for a while so we could run a few errands, and Ryan stopped by later to say hello and hang out with Raylan. 

We watched Game of Thrones.   

I'm not sure what else.  I'm tired.  Raylan likes to party at night.
Raylan is good, though.  He's eating and growing and sleeping and getting baths and doing some tummy time and playing on his mat and getting his diaper changed and looking at things .
He smiles quite a bit, and even though some would say that he's too young for social smiles, I would swear that we can get him to smile at us sometimes.  He just reacts to smiles and laughs and sometimes smiles back.
So he's good.  Amy seems to be doing really well, too.

Hope everyone is doing well.
I'm happy to say that the sun is out...

"Do that little thing that you do!"
"I got sunshine... on a cloudy day..."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Four Weeks Down

So Raylan is a month old.  In some ways it seems like he's been with us longer than that, and in other ways it feels like the time has just flown by.  He's doing well.  He's a good baby.  Mostly only cries when he's hungry or wet (which seems fair), and the rest of the time he's pretty even natured (knock on wood).  When he's awake, he's often really awake.  Mostly he does baby stuff.  He seems to like baths and his play mat and faces.  He also likes being on people.   

"If you're too slow or clumsy when you change me, I'm gonna pee everywhere.
No pressure."
"But I'm not going to let my age define me."

We had some visitors this weekend.  On Saturday Mary and Chad came by with Truett, Mandy came over and brought us a tasty dinner casserole, and Ryan and Jamie stopped by, bearing gifts from Hawaii.  It was fun to have people come by, for sure.  We spend a lot of time at the house these days (we're not totally trapped, but the doc says Raylan won't really be ready for crowds until he hits six weeks), so visitors are awesome.
On Sunday my mom and dad came by after church, and they did some babysitting while we grabbed lunch and did some grocery shopping.  It's so very nice to have them around to help watch Raylan!  We even napped for a few minutes when we got back from the store.  So very nice...
And that's been about it.

It's great to finally see sun trying to break through the clouds after rain for more than a week.  We needed the rain, but my soul can only handle the gloom for so long.

I'm starting my second week back at work.  It'll be our first week of my being back at work without Jean or anyone else around to help Amy and I with some of the late night feeding/diaper stuff.  I'm sure we'll be a little tired, but it'll be fine. 

Not too much else to report.
We're all caught up on Game of Thrones.  It seems like the pace has picked up a bit this season.  It's been pretty good.  Best moment of the season so far has been Daenerys feeding one of her potential enemies to her dragons on the simple suspicion that they were part of a plot against her.  Dragons are the WMD pets of the GOT universe.  I want one.

Well, that's it.  Our veterans court crew is taking part in a joint graduation tonight for all of the Travis County treatment courts.  Apparently the governor's office is sending a representative to speak.  Sounds like a big to-do.  Treatment courts are the wave of the future.  In general, I'm in favor of them, but with a list of caveats.
But that's another post for another time....

Hope everyone is having a good week!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Raylan is Born

So, it's been a little quiet lately on the blog. 
Amy gave birth to Raylan Davis Steans on April 20, 2015, at 11:57 p.m.
He was born at St. David's hospital.  Amy was in labor for over 20 hours and then gave birth to Raylan by way of ceasarean section just before midnight.  He was 7 lbs. and 2 oz. at his birth.  I can't remember exactly how many inches, but twenty something.  The nurses commented that he might end up being tall because his hands and feet were a little on the bigger side (although with me standing there, they didn't have to go too far out on a limb to hazard a guess that he might have a tall gene somewhere in there). 
Raylan spent his first few days after birth in the NICU to address some issues related to labored breathing right after his birth.  Amy spent a few nights at the hospital recovering from her C section.  With the help of some breathing assistance, though, Raylan improved rapidly and was ready to come home by Friday.  Amy recovered pretty quickly, also, and has been doing very well since she got home.

Raylan's arrival has been one of the biggest, best moments in my life.  Aside from getting married to Amy, there haven't been many events that have made me as profoundly happy.  I'm sleep deprived, I spend lots of time changing diapers, feeding, and burping, and I couldn't be happier.  As I told one of my friends in an email, having the baby hasn't always been easy at every moment, but it's always been really good.
The family seem to really love Raylan, and he seems to love them right back.  It's been great having so much support from both sides of our family.  Jean was out here for Raylan's birth and then stayed for almost a week.  She's back here again now, helping out as I transition back to work and Amy is at home with the baby.  My mom, Karen, spent several nights with us as well, and has been coming over almost every day.  Dad (Rick) has been coming to visit, too, and has helped out.  We also stayed comfortably with Mom and Dad for a couple of nights while we got some foundation repair work done at our house (under the assumption that babies and jackhammers don't mix).  Ryan and Jamie met Raylan and spent a little time with him before jetting off to Hawaii for a week.  Susan and Ciara also stopped by to meet him.  Amy has been talking to Heidi, getting parenting tips from Arizona and Skyping with her so that Raylan and Joanna could meet (baby teleconference!).

In short, everyone has been great.  We truly, genuinely appreciate the support.  We look forward to having Raylan grow up in the company of such great people.

It's hard to know what to say about the birth of your first child without the sentiments sounding sort of clich├ęd.  I guess it's bound to be that way.  Every person on earth pretty much arrives here the same way, and still the experience is unique and personal and critically important to the people involved each and every time.

I've been really amazed and impressed by Amy as she's gone through this whole process.  Once again, having a baby hasn't always been easy, I know, but it's been really good, and Amy's handled everything really well.  I'm reminded how lucky I am to be married to her, and slowly Raylan will come to realize how lucky he is to have her as his mother.

And Raylan is amazing.  I still can't get over all of his facial expressions and the way that he looks around, studying the world.  His eyes scan around, taking in faces, shadows, shapes, light and darkness.  He loves to be held, and he loves the voices of the people in his life.  They say he can't really control his smiles yet, but he smiles when he's happy, and so that's quite a bit.  He sleeps a fair amount, but when he's awake, he's wide awake.  So far he doesn't cry all that much, other than when he's hungry.  He makes grunting and chirping noises, but he doesn't cry very often.  (knock on wood)

So we're happy and healthy.

I'm gonna keep this post pretty short, mostly just because I don't have much time to write a longer one at the moment, but I'll update it down the road.  Having a child in the family is a big event.  I'm not sure I've even processed it all yet, let alone gained the perspective to do it justice through a blog post.

At any rate, I'm not particularly religious, but I feel blessed these days.  God, the universe, karma, or life in general has been good to me, and I do not take it for granted.  I'm extremely thankful.

Hopefully I can pay back some of the good things that have come my way by doing some good things for other people.
Seems like the least I can do.